On the Water

March 2017

The Boat Race

26.03.17
Putney–Mortlake, River Thames, London

The annual boat race between two of Britain's most illustrious universities, Oxford and Cambridge, draws up to a quarter of a million spectators to the banks of the Thames for thrilling views of the tense action. 

The world's most famous rowing race began in 1829, when Cambridge student Charles Merivale sent a challenge to his former Harrow schoolfriend Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet) at Oxford. Today, tradition holds that the losing team each year issues a challenge to the winner for a re-match the following March or April.

The closest finish in the race's history was in 2003, when there was just a foot between the Cambridge boat and the winners, Oxford. A dead heat was recorded in 1877, but the gap between the boats was thought to be as much as 2 metres (6 ft) - there was no finishing line photography in those days.

The 6.8-km (4 miles, 374 yards) race starts out at Putney and finishes at Mortlake; spectators can watch the boat race all along the course from both sides of the river, but prime viewing spots are: Putney Bridge, Putney Embankment and the towpath in front of Bishops Park at the start; Hammersmith and Barnes towards the middle of the course; and Duke's Meadows and Chiswick Bridge at the end.

In 2012, Cambridge won one of the most eventful and controversial races to date following the appearance of a protestor in the water.

NB. The 2017 dates are provisional and will be finalised closer to the time.

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